Your Rights as a Pagan Parent

Pagan parents have the same rights as parents of other religions. Image by Imgorthand/E+/Getty Images

People often say that they're afraid to come out of the broom closet -- what if their ex-spouse uses Wicca as a weapon in a divorce proceeding? What if a teacher singles out someone's child because mom and dad are Pagan? How do you find a balance that allows you to practice your faith, and yet still protect your rights as a parent?

Divorce and Family Court

Let’s talk first about child custody in divorce proceedings.

There have been cases in which one spouse tries to remove children from the presence of the other in the belief that the parent might be practicing a religion that is harmful to the kids. In such cases, federal courts have been reluctant to get involved and have generally left decisions to state supreme courts, who tend to vary widely in their interpretations of law.

In New Hampshire, state courts will not examine any evidence concerning religion at all in a custody hearing, on the grounds that it would put the government into a position in which crosses the church-and-state barrier. In the State of Ohio, a 1992 ruling (Pater v. Pater) stated that custody "cannot be awarded solely on the basis of the parents' religious affiliations and that to do so violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution." However, in some states, depending on what region of the country you are in, you may find yourself before a judge who proudly displays the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and who takes religious issues to be part of his domain.

In ANY legal proceeding, you need to make sure you consult with an attorney.

Child Protective Services

In other cases, child welfare agencies have investigated complaints against Pagan or Wiccan families. Nearly universally, if a family has lost custody of a child to a government agency, it is because there was some other issue at play besides religion -- neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or unsanitary living conditions.

Bear in mind that unless there is an extreme situation taking place, it is rare for children to be removed from a home on the first visit by child welfare investigators.

If someone from a child protective agency comes to your home and asks to investigate, try to have a witness present. Learn ahead of time what your state's laws are regarding search and seizure. Find out if allowing law enforcement or child welfare agencies into your home without a warrant will waive your rights under illegal search. If it does, request that anyone who comes to your home have a warrant. Have we mentioned that you need to retain the services of an attorney?

Public Schools

If your child attends a public school in the United States, he or she has the same rights as other students.

When it comes to your rights as a Pagan parent, keep in mind that many - probably most - teachers have never had a Pagan student, or had a Pagan parent to interact with. This means you'll probably be setting a precedent for them, and navigating the waters can be tricky. This is why, as always, communication is key.

The odds are pretty good that religion is not going to come up at all, but if it does, make sure you follow a chain of command when you're trying to resolve a problem.

If your child comes home and says that his teacher said something that you find troubling, your first response should NOT be to complain to the school board, your lawyer, and the local news channel. Instead, start with the source. Call or email the teacher - I like email because it gives me a chance to think about my words in advance - and say that you've got some concerns, and you'd like to discuss things further. Remember, teachers are busy all day long, so don't get mad if you don't get a response within a few minutes. Give it a little time.

When you do speak to the teacher, the best way to communicate is in a way that is respectful and polite. Remember, more people say dumb things out of ignorance than out of deliberate ill intent - if your child's teacher said something that could be construed as anti-Pagan, odds are good that it's because he or she just didn't know any better.

Use your words, and offer to help educate. I've always found that using "I or me" phrasing works far better than any sort of accusatory verbiage. Here are some things you can try, depending on the situation:

  • "I have some concerns about something Billy said happened in the classroom today. I'm hoping you can help clear things up for me."
  • "I realize that our family's religious beliefs might be something you haven't encountered before. What can I do to help you understand things better?"
  • "My daughter came home today and said she felt singled out. I'm sure this wasn't deliberate, but I'd like to talk about it so we can work together and help her have a successful school year."

Be sure to read up on Rights of Pagan and Wiccan Students for more details on how you can work with school personnel as an advocate for your child.

Finally, remember that there are ways you can help reduce the chance you'll face religious discrimination as a Pagan or Wiccan parent. Ultimately, education and communication are the key. Be sure to read How to Protect Your Legal Rights for additional information and tips. If you're ever in doubt, consult with an attorney. You may also want to pick up a copy of Pagans and the Law, by Dana Eilers.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Your Rights as a Pagan Parent." ThoughtCo, May. 24, 2016, Wigington, Patti. (2016, May 24). Your Rights as a Pagan Parent. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Your Rights as a Pagan Parent." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 11, 2017).